(review by steve rastin)

Strange how things turn out sometimes.

Much had been said to me in the run-up to the gig about my whiney outburst on Facebook in which, if memory serves me correctly, I’d said that the local scene was fucked and I didn’t know why I cared anymore.

A glance around a nicely packed Caskeys on Thursday night served as a timely reminder of exactly why I still want things to work around here: sheer bloody-mindedness.

Yes, Rhyl is a shithole in which qualities like hope and ambition are spat upon and where people are told that they are nothing and can be be nothing and that leaves a stark choice: accept your lot from your so-called betters or fight back.

In a music scene context, that fight back can only come from musicians and fans making their own communities in which they encourage each other and support each others’ efforts and those qualities were very much in evidence around Birdhouse.

But more of them later.

First up on the night were Bangor trio Sona and singer Jamie was quick to point out that the gig was almost a 5th anniversary of their first ever public performance………at Caskeys!!!

It’s quite heartening that the band are barely into their twenties and yet were the old hands on the evening and, Jamie’s misbehaving guitar notwithstanding, they turned in a performance that was full of the confidence and self assurance that experience brings.

Sona are always an exhilerating experience live because they have developed a sound that has a commercial slant but construct their songs so that they are full of twists, turns and changes in structure that keep you on your toes, comfortable but never complacent.

All their album’s best moments got an airing and in the end they’d won over a crowd who, by and large, had never experienced them before.

Ella Mae Sueref is arguably the most unique talent on the North Wales coast right now and she wasn’t going to let the loss of her bass player and a nasty throat infection stop her from playing.

She performs a set of songs that are reminiscent of jazz/blues greats like Billie Holiday, mostly originally-penned songs but with a couple of covers thrown in, and she delivers them with an understated calm and serenity that totally belies her 17 years of age.

The reaction to her was a little muted, something you’d perhaps expect for an act who doesn’t conform to most people’s expectations, but those who were able to appreciate what she was doing were left in awe – none more so than Sona bassist Kyle Lee who has intimated that he would be interested in collaborating with her.

All of which brings us to Birdhouse, the band that has formed from the ashes of Team Ugly and The Spizzletons.

Sod’s law immediately kicked in as, during the opening number, two of their three guitarists broke strings and this, combined with the alcohol intake prior to the gig, persuaded the band to turn their set into more of a light-hearted performance for their mates and so veered from the chaotic to the sublime.

The last number they played, a long, drawn-out post-rock guitar drone, was hypnotic and powerful and pointed a potentially rewarding path forward and suggested that Birdhouse could be one of 2010s more interesting musical propositions if this is the course that they ultimately choose to follow – watch this space with interest.

What is really heartening however is the sense of community that the band have built around themselves, most of the faces in the crowd familiar to anyone who ever watched Team Ugly or The Spizzletons, and it is this aspect that highlights a way in which the scene can be reinvigorated.

The crowd within Bar Blu was originally generated by the likes of Gintis, Jive’s Room and Junebug developing that sense of community and if Birdhouse and their following can build a similar situation, there is hope for the local scene yet.

Birdhouse will be back at Caskeys on Christmas Eve – the rest of the bill will be announced shortly.